I am giving you permission to fall apart.
To crumble and drop to your knees.
To cry so hard you can’t catch your breath and your whole body trembles.
I want you to know that it is okay to break and feel like you are losing your mind.
It is okay to feel hopeless.
To hit rock bottom.
To go places so dark and so desperate you feel terrified;
of getting lost there forever.
But forever isn’t a place you can inhabit.
Forever is an illusion.
Forever does not exist.
And even when you feel like you can’t go on and there is no hope,
I promise you that there is.
You are going to pick yourself up off of that floor.
You will find your strength, your hope, your resilience.
Never forget that tomorrow is another day.
But today, you are allowed to break.
There is beauty in breakdown.
I am in love with this word.
The sheer power in evokes for me internally is enough right there. But it is so much more than that. It is strength, fierceness, power, fighting back, never giving up, never surrendering. It means that when life throws you a curve ball, you catch the damn thing and throw it right back. It means that if you stumble into your hole in the sidewalk, you climb back out. It means that when you break, you pick up the pieces of your shattered heart, mind, and body, and you put yourself back together. One piece at a time. You rebuild yourself, and reemerge even stronger than before.
It means that no matter what knocks you down, YOU GET BACK UP.
Who actually possesses this amazing quality? What makes a person resilient?
I think it comes down to a couple of things. First, I believe it is a quality inherent in some people. I think people who are naturally resilient are confident, secure in themselves, and have a solid ability to regulate their emotions (especially in the face of adversity). When the shit hits the proverbial fan, they don’t take off running in the opposite direction, they square their shoulders and face off with whatever it is that is coming their way. I am not saying that only certain people embody this characteristic. I am merely stating my opinion, that it may come more naturally to some than to others. For many of us, resiliency is a quality that we need to work on – continuously.
I know that I do.
I have found, over the course of this very exhausting and debilitating year, that I lacked an acceptance of what it was that I was going through (emotionally speaking). I wanted off my emotional rollercoaster as I went up and down and back and forth through the grieving process. Denial, anger, confusion, hurt, rage, fear, depression, despondency – the adjectives are many and seemingly endless. But, it would seem that I have finally moved into this state of acceptance and awareness that I was unable to achieve until now. I feel as though I am finally embodying resilience. I believe that this is because I had to go through the emotions, hit rock bottom, and claw my way back out. I know now, with certainty, that I am strong enough to get through pretty much anything at this point in my life.
What I have come to understand about all of this is that I do not think that resiliency only means embodying that ‘never give up’ attitude. I think it also involves recognizing that sometimes you need to fall the fuck apart. And more importantly – accept this as part of your journey. Fighting against an intense emotional torrent gets you literally no where. Letting yourself be vulnerable and being able to sit with your feelings, no matter how totally terrifying and shitty they may feel, is just another form of resiliency. Because, without that deep emotional processing, you will most definitely keep falling into that abyss; over and over and over again.
And that is the space from which you truly pick yourself back up and continue to fight.
I have finally found that light at the end of my tunnel. It has been a very dark and very terrifying journey. I tried to put a time limit on my grief, I tried to control it and make it stop. It was only when I just gave in and let go that I began to heal. But I believe that it was all a part of my process and my journey. It was one hell of a shitty year.
What I want you to know is this: The pain and the hurt have an ending point. I am here to reassure you that the next stage in this horrific journey that is grief, is you coming to realize that you are strong enough, you can get through this, and that you are safe. So, please do not despair. Do not give up.
Hold onto hope; it’s there, within you.
I promise. You are going to be okay.
How do we create a true resiliency within ourselves?
From The American Psychological Association:
Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.
Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.
Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals.
Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss.
Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.
My name is Amy and I am a relationship addict.
Yes, it is a thing. A very real and very debilitating thing.
From Ann Smith via Psychology Today:
The relationship addict experiences intense “abandonment anxiety”. This anxiety triggers panic, low self worth, feelings of emptiness, isolation, and possibly depression. The addict may believe they are worthless without their partner. They almost always feel unbearable emptiness. Love addiction is a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person. The causes of love addiction are fairly easy to identify: inadequate or inconsistent nurturing, low self esteem, absence of positive role models for committed relationships, and indoctrination with cultural images of perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings.
It dawned on me as I said goodbye to the last relationship I was in, just a week or so ago, that something wasn’t right with the way I was reacting to the loss. Something felt off, so I did what I do best, I did some investigative work on myself and my behavior. I took a look back at my actions with this person, within the relationship, and found myself kind of disgusted. I wasn’t necessarily shocked to discover that nothing about my behavior had been healthy or ‘normal’, just kind of disappointed. It was a realization that I didn’t want to make or admit.
But deep down, I knew that it was time to deal with it.
I am addicted to love.
I was a rollercoaster of emotion and anxiety during my last relationship (something I thought was just me, in addition to my current grief over the divorce). I thought my explosive (head-over-heels love) and intense emotion was fueled by love and my big, huge heart. But, my anxiety would be more pronounced when I wouldn’t hear from him for longer than a few hours or, god forbid, an entire day. I would feel nothing short of despondent; panicky. And when his feelings didn’t seem to match my own in intensity or explosiveness, I got even more anxious and more emotional. It was exhausting. I have no idea why he put up with me.
Since we have said our respective goodbyes, I have been an anxious wreck. Mornings seem to be the hardest. I wake up, and without that good morning check-in fix, I feel anxious, undone, and completely alone.
To be perfectly honest, I feel terrified. But of what, I have no idea (a fact that is really pissing me off). I am home alone right now and literally just screamed to no one: “What the fuck are you so afraid of?!” And promptly burst into tears. Sigh.
I have a feeling that this is going to be a long, hard, uphill battle.
I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Ever since boys noticed me in the 8th grade (and I noticed them back). I suspect that the behavior took root because I grew up in a home without a father and had an emotionally distant mother who I didn’t easily connect with. I watched my father die and never had a male role model. After his death, my mother relied on me to be the other parent in the household. I was 9. Perhaps, as a result, I was left with a void, a hole, severely low self-esteem, and a debilitating fear of abandonment.
Love (and relationship) addicts are terrified of abandonment. They rely on others to fulfill them, and to make them feel happy and whole. Without their love object, they feel worthless and incomplete. This is often due to a lack of love and nurturing from their primary caregivers while growing up. The abandonment they experienced may have been emotional (i.e. – their parents were physically present but emotionally detached), or physical – one or both of their parents left, died, was ill, or absent much of the time.
Perhaps my childhood ended at age 9? I am almost 43. That is 34 years of emptiness. Holy crap.
From what I have read, true love addiction is less about the search for love and more about finding a way to control tough emotions. Going from one relationship to another without any room for grieving, mourning, or processing through a previous loss means getting to avoid feeling those tough emotions. I thought I had a failsafe way to avoid dealing with my father’s death and subsequent abandonment shit when I married my first husband.
But that relationship didn’t satisfy me, so I found another more exciting guy and married him. We lasted 16 years. I thought I would be safe forever; we had 2 kids! That meant commitment – a guarantee, a promise, right?
Holy shit. NO.
When my second marriage failed, I had no choice but to deal with the grief from my father’s death (finally) which came back in one giant terrifying matzoh ball of horror. When that train wreck came, in addition to grieving my marriage and my family, it is no surprise that I ended up in the hospital.
But wait, I didn’t I really have to deal with any of it, did I? After I got out of the hospital, my subconscious knew just what to do. I did what I had always done when a relationship ended or seemed unsatisfying. I jumped right back into online dating and I hopped right into a new romance. Surely this new and exciting person would save me and help me feel better and I would be happy?!
Again, holy shit. NO.
Since the split a year ago, I have had 3 relatively serious, sexually intimate relationships. When each one ended, I broke all over again. They were unhealthy relationships (though I didn’t think so or realize it at the time) as they were a means of getting that love ‘fix’ and avoiding the big, huge, debilitating emotions that accompany being alone (for me). I was still hiding from my demons; my inability to feel whole, complete, or satisfied with who I am as a person without that constant need for external validation. Seeking internal validation from external sources for most of my life has done so much damage I really don’t know where to begin picking up the pieces.
For me, being alone feels like I am dying. And right now, in this moment, I feel like I am dying. The longest I have ever been single was a mere few weeks when I was 19 years old. It was during that time period that I had a suicide attempt. That is how scary it felt then. It feels just as scary now but thankfully, I am 42 and have 2 beautiful children that anchor me to this world.
I know that this realization/admission is huge. I know I am on the right path and acknowledging my underlying behaviors and motivations has felt very scary but also very empowering.
Life and love feel like this big ball of tangled up shit that I have to finally sit down with, examine, and sort through. On my own. My goal is to be single for 6 months.
That is not until April. Gulp.
Am I scared? Hell yes. I am completely terrified.
I have been leaking out my power and my essence and my very self all over the damn place. It stops now.
It is time for me to go and find all of my missing pieces. And put myself back together.
I am Rebuilding Amy.
Resources on love and relationship addiction for you:
I was in my yard the other day and there were leaves on the ground – not on the trees where they SHOULD be; all green and perky, glinting with dappled sunshine. The leaves I saw were brown and crunchy; shriveled and dead, pathetic. I internally shuddered.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love fall. The colors, the smells, the crisp, clear air, the cozy feeling of sweaters and jeans and boots. But fall means one thing:
WINTER IS COMING.
I can’t talk about winter without saying things like; I don’t like winter! I don’t like feeling cold! I don’t like the lack of sunshine and daylight! I don’t like the feeling of being trapped inside and feeling isolated! I do not like snow!
But this post really isn’t about any of those things.
It is about this: The seasons are changing and time keeps moving right along; life is passing by. Fall is this epic shift of letting go, and change, and new beginnings. Death makes way for new life.
And life is flowing all around me – it keeps marching on, but fuck! I feel so anchored to where I am. Days are turning into weeks, weeks into months, and months into seasons.
I am standing still.
It has been almost a year since my husband left. One trip around the sun. Time feels like it’s in some sort of warp. I feel like he left last week. A year?! It just doesn’t feel real.
But it is.
The world keeps turning and I am standing still, feeling completely and absolutely STUCK.
I am stuck inside of my grief, and my hurt, and my heartache. I cannot shake them. Yes, I’ve made lots of progress, but there are still some days where I am literally rocked to my core with pain.
And all around me, life goes on.
Winter is coming.
My kids are doing as well as they can with their new life; split between the 2 people they love most in this world. They spend half the week with their dad and half the week with me. Of course they want their family back, but they are really happy and they are thriving. I imagine that my ex must be happy too. He has everything he ever wanted. He told me once that he is happier than he ever has been in his life.
And me? I am still struggling. Still aching for that family I want back. I am sitting in an empty house filled with ghosts, memories, and lost dreams. A future that will never come to pass. It is a life that is no longer real. It was the future I was counting on.
There are no guarantees.
I think this is just the rollercoaster that is grief. I think, perhaps, that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Feeling my feelings and moving through the pain and the trauma. Perhaps I am not actually stuck but just slowed waaaaaaaay down.
If it were possible, I would curl up into an emotional chrysalis, and hibernate right through fall, straight on through winter, and wake up when it was spring. I would bypass the rest of this so-called ‘grieving process‘ and skip to the end where I emerge from my chrysalis as a beautiful fucking butterfly.
But winter is coming.
And I have no choice but to go along for the ride.
Sorry for the graphic title. I am pissed. I am smack in the middle of the so called ‘grieving process’ and I needed to give it a description. An outlet. Sometimes I feel as though the ‘process’ is eating me alive. Writing helps me move through difficult things.
Grieving feels like being tangled up, suffocating, choking on your own emotions. It feels like a wave, a tsunami of unknown and uncertain. It feels like falling through space with nothing familiar to land on. It feels like pulling out your hair, running around in circles and hitting wall after wall after wall. It feels utterly hopeless, never-ending. A giant gaping hole of hurt and confusion. It goes up, then down, then sideways, and then does spiral loopty-loops through your head and your heart. With a hot knife. It makes you feel physically ill and then utterly exhausted. It is unpredictable and nasty. And when you feel as though, finally, you’re through the worst of it, it’s as though something punches you in the gut and you are back in your bed, on the floor, on the couch, bawling your brains out.
Grieving is the loneliest process I know of because you are on your own in your particular brand of grief. You try to connect with others going through it, but you are alone; separate. People tell you it will get better but all you can think is, “what if it DOESN’T?”. I can’t do this for one more minute let alone one more hour, day, week, month, year! No one can save you, heal you, or fix you because this is your ride. It is the path you are on, though you most certainly did not choose this. No one in their right mind would ever choose this.
This crazy, wild, terrifying ride from hell.
I seem to have lost mine. Not sure I ever had much to begin with though.
I have been trying to be mindful of that secret inner voice – the unspoken push from my busy brain. It has been sending me messages of:
Those 3 words in all of their variations do so much damage. And I struggle with turning them off; stopping them completely. I can tell them to fuck off when they pop up, but come they may, with or without my consent.
I Should Have known that I had PTSD. I Should Have been better at loving and feeling regardless of my PTSD. I Should Be over this by now. I Should Not be hurting this badly or this often after 8 months. I Should Be more present and mindful. I Should Stop judging my every thought and emotion. I Should Stop waking up with anxiety. I Should Not feel so much, love so much. I Should not be vulnerable.
I Could Have done things differently. I Could have controlled my PTSD-fueled rage (not actually possible). I Could Have no more feelings. I Could Have more patience with myself (absolutely true). I Could Have made better decisions last year.
I Would Be happier with my ex. I Would be loved more if I wasn’t such a weirdo. I Would be happier if I wasn’t alone. I Would Be healing faster if it weren’t for my fucked up broken brain. I Would have more friends if I wasn’t so damn introverted. If I were at all ‘normal’ I Would Be better by now.
Nastiness. All of it. Unhelpful brain doodling (I just coined that phrase and it’s fucking brilliant).
I know that my path is hard. I understand with a beautiful introspective logic that I am exactly where I am supposed to be on said path because how could I be anywhere else?? But I also feel that nagging, incessant nudge of:
I SHOULD BE BETTER BY NOW.
I SHOULD BE OVER IT.
I SHOULD BE THIS, THAT, OTHER.
Not this achy, hurting, uncertain creature who wakes up with a hole in my chest.
Every. Single. Day.
Patience. What does that look like? What does that feel like?
A deep breath. A long overdue sigh. Letting go of the should, could, would. Being present in every moment. Making space for the hurt and the ache and treating them like an old friend, not an unwanted enemy. Allowing myself the tears that still come. Allowing myself to embrace the difficult feelings and not trying to block them; run from them. Giving myself a break from the constant (unspoken) pressure I put on myself to be someone other than I am able to be right now. Thinking gentle thoughts. Loving thoughts. Kind and peaceful thoughts. Embracing the rollercoaster instead of fighting it tooth and nail. Acknowledging that I might not be okay and that that is okay.
I will breathe. I will pull myself back to the present moment.
Sometimes I feel like I am treading water.
I can barely keep my head above the water line.
I am furiously working my body so I can stay afloat and not drown. I keep fighting the pressure pushing me down and under. I don’t want to give in. I will not give in!
Sometimes though, I feel as if this is pointless. Maybe I just need to stop trying and give up; sink to the bottom. I can feel the pressure of the water on my chest, in my throat; I cannot breathe. I feel heavier than lead. There is burning behind my eyes.
Maybe it is just time to sit at the bottom of this fucking lake.
I can see the light filtered through the murky water; it’s always up there. But being down here feels safe, quiet, and peaceful. I am all alone and there are times when I like it that way. No one. Just me and the fish swimming by; staring at this strange underwater girl.
My hair is floating in tendrils all around my head. I am sitting cross-legged and my back is straight. My eyes are open, my face tilted upward. I can see everything.
I can see the people Up There. Going about their day. I am separate. No one can see me, and I don’t ever have to come up for air. This is where I live now. This is my home. This is my path.
A life alone at the bottom of a dark and cold lake.